18 Sep So you think you can homeschool in Qatar?
About 18 months ago my husband was approached about a job in Qatar, and we decided to take the leap and go for it. Within a month of accepting the job he was Doha side, leaving the two kids and I in the UK to pack up and ship out. It was a stressful, frenetic and crazy time and its pretty much a blur to me. We arrived from the UK, shell-shocked and weary four months later, at the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the intense heat. Baptism of fire, almost quite literally!
Somehow in the melee of our move we’d not done our homework regarding schooling in Qatar. Oh, I’d done a cursory search online. I understood that there were international schools here, and more importantly for us, British Curriculum schools. Great! There’s some great info on the expat woman website regarding schools and fees, but it was fairly old, so I wasn’t sure of the accuracy. The HR Manager at the business where my husband works told him that school would cost around 12,000 riyals a term for both, so about 36,000 a year in total. A bit tight on our income initially, but if I got a job too we’d be more than OK. How naïve we were! How stupid we felt when we discovered the truth. It quickly became clear that we’d need to spend anywhere from 65,000 to 100,000 riyals on school fees to put both children into school. This was out of the question for us, and unfortunately we were not supported by the employer as many other expats are. A big, big lesson learned.
So we licked our wounds and decided that until things changed financially I could homeschool the kids. I was expecting to do this anyway on a casual basis whilst we waited for a school place. At the time our kids were 8 and 12, so year 4 and year 8 respectively. Not a perfect situation to do it longer term. I was concerned they’d miss out on the variety of learning and the social aspect of school, but it seemed like a great option given our circumstances. What could go wrong? LOL!
After researching homeschooling, I came across a UK company called WES. They provide British Curriculum homeschooling service internationally as well as domestically. They provided all of the books and equipment we needed and lesson plans each day for each child. So it was very prescriptive and structured. We could either buy just one term at a time or the whole year in one go, and we could work through the lessons at our own pace. The children had designated tutors on hand for advice and I had to send selected pieces of work to the tutors to be marked as the term progressed. This ensured we were on track and that I was getting it right!
We purchased maths, English and science for both children. This cost £1300 approximately per term altogether. On top of that there was the cost of the materials which came to £1000, but that was for the whole year. So all together, tuition for a year would cost around £5000. If you wanted to add a language to that, or history, geography etc, that was more, I think it’s an extra £150-250 per subject. Overall I was really happy with the service, comforted by the detailed lesson plans and advice.
Sounds hunky-dory perfect doesn’t it? Pah! It was sooooo hard. Not the work itself, although I did have to brush up my math skills and it turned out some of my scientific knowledge was suspect. What was hard was being motivated, for all of us. I would be terribly distracted by the housework, or the lure of the TV or wanting to be outside. The kids would be more interested in gaming or going to the pool. We tried to be disciplined and generally we did OK. We spent every morning during the week working, 9am until 12.30/1pm. Maths and English every day and science three times a week. It was a struggle though, a tough time anyway, adjusting to life in Doha, and being homesick. In addition to that you have to learn new levels of tolerance and patience when educating your own children, especially when faced with a belligerent and at times overly emotional 12/13 year old. We fought, we cried, we shouted, but we also celebrated our successes and had a laugh at my expense when I was baffled by algebra.
Recently my husband’s salary was adjusted to accommodate school fees, and my daughter started at a British school today. We’re still awaiting a place for my son, so he’s still on the homeschool trail. He’s quite happy with that for now though as he’s a bit of a homebody (and a mummy’s boy!)
We had to have the children’s school reports attested back in the UK because they have been homeschooled. It took a while to establish exactly what the Supreme Education Committee wanted us to do with the reports, but in the end the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided that they must at least be stamped by the British Embassy to allow them to be accepted here. Without that, they would have to repeat a year. Luckily, WES is recognized in the UK as an official education provider, so we were able to go through the attestation process. So if you were planning on using homeschool as a temporary stopgap, my advice would be to use a company like WES who can be attested, otherwise you’ll be stuck.
So homeschooling….I’ve not painted the prettiest picture have I? It has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Give me back my stressful full time job in the UK any day. It was so easy by comparison. Yes, it’s been stressful and yes, it’s been emotional. However, its also been immensely rewarding, and its brought us closer together. I now know my children in a way I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to before. I’m glad we did it, but equally relieved it’s coming to an end.
Teachers, I salute you!
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